Why volunteers love Feed My Starving Children

Posted on November 15, 2012

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Volunteers at Feed My Starving Children

The night before our family volunteered at Feed My Starving Children (FMSC), my eight-year-old daughter couldn’t sleep. She couldn’t wait to go. During our entire two-hour shift, she bounced with excitement.Feed My Starving Children

She’s not alone. I’ve been there with groups from work, church and the neighborhood. No matter how old they are or how many times they’ve done it, the reaction is the same: people love volunteering at FMSC.

Courting volunteers

FMSC volunteers hand-pack nutritious meals for hungry kids around the world. It’s a simple task with a specific outcome. FMSC does a few things particularly well:

  • Stay focused on mission – The name of the organization tells us what they do (Feed), why they do it (My = God’s), and who will benefit (Starving Children). FMSC stays focused on one important task.
  • Execute with assembly-line efficiency – FMSC clearly defines and monitors volunteer tasks. Each two-hour session has the same routine, which starts and ends on time. And 90% of all funds raised goes towards the meals.
  • Simplify logistics – FMSC makes it easy to help. Volunteers can see available shifts and sign up online. They don’t need to bring anything, or go through extensive training. The packing and orientation rooms are clean and inviting.
  • Include all ages and abilities – It can be hard to find good volunteer opportunities for kids. At packing stations, there are a variety of tasks. A few sit-down jobs and roll-up-your-sleeves warehouse jobs, too. FMSC makes it easy to include everyone. Yet another plus when you can team up with family and friends.
  • Communicate – Volunteers get a clear orientation to start the session, and they learn results to end it. They know how many meals they packed and how many kids their efforts will help feed for a year. Photos and videos from partners around the world help tell the story. FMSC also reminds people that cash donations enable every packing session — a tricky but essential message to convey.
  • Add fun – It’s the little things that make the difference…cheerful staff, tallying boxes as we go, up-tempo music, encouragement and chatter. About half the sessions I’ve attended include a birthday party. It’s a very upbeat atmosphere.

Not every nonprofit can adopt these approaches for volunteer activities. But FMSC has a successful model for engaging people. These strategies work well when asking people to donate time — or money.

Managing the crowds in Chicagoland

It can be tough to find open volunteer slots at the Schaumburg and Aurora locations. For example, we organized a group one Saturday in June. People loved it so much, that day we booked the next available Saturday shift — which wasn’t until late December.

FMSC recognizes the need for more volunteer opportunities. It plans to open another location in Libertyville, Illinois very soon. The new site will triple the number of area residents who have the opportunity to help out. (See more at FMSC Change the World – Chicago)

Nationally, FMSC expects to nearly double its meal production from 133 million meals in 2011-2012 to 235 million by 2014-2015.  For the kids around the world that depend on these meals, I hope FMSC continues to succeed.

My family is already signed up for our next shift. If you are interested in volunteering, check out the FMSC volunteer page.

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